Field Education

Field Education is grounded in an action-reflection model of learning in which the lived experience (praxis) becomes the "text" from which we learn. At VDS, Field Education is the centerpiece of the Master of Divinity curriculum and is consistently the highest-rated component of the degree.

We emphasize three dimensions of the action-reflection learning process:

  1. Doing: 

    We assume that there are particular skills, tasks or competencies in which a student wishes to become proficient, and Field Education offers an arena in which these things can be practiced and honed. For example, a student serving as an intern in a congregation might want to learn how to preach, how to teach, how to visit the sick, how to organize a group of people around an issue, etc. A student doing an internship at a social agency might want to learn how to communicate with a particular constituency, how to liaison with other institutions, how to plan a community event around a particular topic, etc. Each student's goals around the doing of ministry will be shaped by the student's learning agenda as well as the opportunities available at the placement.

  2. Being: 

    Our assumption is that ministry is as much about who we are as it is about what we do. Therefore, we make opportunities for engagement with issues of the self. Without being overly therapeutically focused, our hope is to create opportunities for students to give some attention to personal and/or spiritual concerns that might be present in a student's life. For example, a student might be struggling with the very personal question of vocation. Or with the dilemma of maintaining integrity in an institution around which one feels deeply ambivalent. Or perhaps a student finds that they can't say "no" to others, and therefore they find themselves spread too thinly to be effective. We all have personal and spiritual issues that have an effect on our ministry. Field Education offers a context in which to become aware of those issues and to give them some attention.
  3. Knowing: 

    At Vanderbilt Divinity School we envision the task of theological education to be preparing women and men to be "Minister as Theologian." We want our students to function well, and we want them to be very self-aware, but we also are very committed to their ability to reflect theologically on the events of life and ministry. We want students to name and wrestle with the theological issues that are unique to their placement. For example, a student who is an intern at a hospital will, no doubt, encounter the theological issues of human suffering, the role of prayer in healing, God's role in tragedy, etc. This represents the heart of our work in Field Education - teaching students to name, unpack and wrestle with the theological issues they encounter in their work.


  • Who is eligible to participate?

    Anyone! While MDiv students are required to complete at least 6 credit hours of field education, a great number of our MTS students also take advantage of this experiential learning opportunity. 

    ThM students may opt to participate in Field Education.

  • Is it possible for me to receive credit for some work/ministry in which I am already engaged?

    Yes. If you are currently engaged in some form of religious leadership it is quite possible for that work to be your Field Education placement.

  • Do I have to do my Field Education internship in a church?

    No. In your one-on-one discerning conversations with the Field Education faculty, you will have opportunity to share your hopes and dreams about your own vocational trajectory. You will not be forced to engage anywhere you do not want to engage.

  • Will I be paid for my internship?

    Maybe. We recommend that all of our partners who host our students as interns pay the student a stipend. Our recommendation follows the work-study rate, currently about $15 an hour. Many of our partners are able to pay all or part of this. Many are not. We are always working on getting our partners to pay if they possibly can, and we are always on the lookout for alternative funding sources. You will receive academic credit for the experience, and the workload is comparable to that for other academic coursework.

  • Am I expected to find my own Learning Context (aka Field Ed placement)?

    No. In fact, we prefer that you don't. Our process is a mutual and collaborative one that involves one-on-one discerning conversations between students and the Field Education faculty. These conversations will central to the process and might evoke options and possibilities that have not yet occurred to you!

  • What are my placement options?

    Vanderbilt Divinity School's approach to field education is unique. Each participating student meets during their first year of study with Field Education faculty to discern together the most appropriate learning context for a student, based on previous experience, vocational goals, and hopes for learning. Students have a great deal of autonomy in defining what the learning goals at a placement will be. Oftentimes, the choice of a learning context is made in consideration with one's concentration. 

    In a typical year we will have about half of our students interning in a congregation, representing the breadth of the theological continuum, and doing all sorts of different things. Others will engage in some sort of chaplaincy, perhaps at a hospital, hospice, recovery center, prison, or university. Others will engage in non-profit work, social justice work, teaching, or something at the intersection of religion and the arts. And we are always creating new placement partnerships. We might make something up that is customized just for you!

Sample Placement Sites

Because the religious landscape of Nashville is constantly changing and in an attempt to be responsive to students' vocational aspirations, the list of possible field education sites is constantly changing.

  • Congregational
    • 61st Ave United Methodist Church
    • Advent Lutheran Church, Murfreesboro
    • Andrew Price United Methodist Church
    • Belmont United Methodist Church
    • Blakemore United Methodist Church
    • Born Again Church
    • Brentwood United Methodist Church
    • Brookemeade Congregational Church
    • Calvary United Methodist Church
    • Central Christian Church, M'boro (Disciples)
    • Christ Episcopal Church
    • Church of Another Chance
    • Downtown Presbyterian Church
    • Eastwood Christian Church
    • Edgehill United Methodist Church
    • First Baptist Church, Capitol Hill
    • First Baptist Church (Downtown)
    • First Christian Church, Chattanooga
    • First Unitarian Universalist Church
    • First United Methodist Church, Lebanon
    • First United Methodist Church, Springfield
    • First United Church, UCC
    • Glendale Baptist Church
    • Grace United Methodist Church, Mt. Juliet
    • Holy Trinity Lutheran Church
    • Home Church
    • Humphries Street United Methodist Church
    • Inglewood United Methodist Church
    • Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church
    • Masjid Al-Islam
    • McKendree United Methodist Church
    • Mt. Zion Baptist Church
    • Nashville Christian Church, Korean
    • Nashville Korean United Methodist Church
    • Nashville Korean Presbyterian Church
    • New Covenant Christian Church
    • New Providence United Methodist (Clarksville)
    • Priest Lake Community Baptist Church
    • Second Presbyterian Church
    • South End United Methodist Church
    • St. Ann's Catholic Church
    • St. Anne's Episcopal Church
    • St. David's Episcopal Church
    • The Temple Church
    • Trinity Presbyterian Church
    • Village Church
    • Vine Street Christian Church
    • West End United Methodist Church
    • Woodmont Christian Church (Disciples)
  • Chaplaincy
    • Alive Hospice
    • Belmont University Ministries
    • KC Potter Center
    • Open Table Nashville
    • Vanderbilt Office of Religious Life
    • Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital
    • Vanderbilt University Medical Center
    • Vanderbilt University Student Services
    • Vanderbilt University Wesley Foundation
    • Youth Villages
  • Pastoral Care
    • Baptist Hospital
    • Better Decisions (empowering incarcerated women)
    • Correctional Work Center (incarcerated men; drug treatment unit)
    • Crisis Intervention Center (telephone crisis counseling)
    • McKendree Village United Methodist Retirement Center
    • Nashville CARES (HIV/AIDS support and education)
    • Planned Parenthood Association, Middle Tennessee
    • Riverbend Maximum Security Institute (incarcerated men)
    • Saint Thomas Hospital
    • Vanderbilt Medical Center
    • Vanderbilt Institute for the Treatment of Addiction
    • Wesley Foundation at VU (campus ministry)
  • Nonprofit
    • Conexion Americas
    • Harriet Tubman House
    • No Exceptions Prison Collective
    • Table Nashville
    • SE Center for Cooperative Justice
    • Tennessee Higher Education Initiative
    • Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition
  • Academia
    • American Baptist College
    • Belmont University Religion Department
    • Lipscomb University
    • United Methodist Publishing House
  • Peace and Justice Ministries
    • Better Decisions (empowering incarcerated women)
    • Catholic Charities (work with immigrants)
    • Gay and Lesbian Center
    • Habitat for Humanity
    • Interfaith Alliance of Middle Tennessee (interfaith dialogue and action group)
    • Legal Services of Middle Tennessee
    • Manna (Hunger)
    • Margaret Cunnigham Women's Center -VU (domestic violence prevention)
    • National Conference for Community and Justice (human relations organization)
    • Office of the District Attorney: Victim Witness Services
    • Office of the Public Defender: Jail Docket
    • Rape and Sexual Abuse Center
    • Renewal House (residential treatment center for addicted women)
    • Restorative Justice Ministries, United Methodist Church
    • Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing (anti-death penalty)
    • Tying Nashville Together (interfaith grassroots justice organization)
    • Ujima House (shelter for victims of domestic violence)
  • Other Specialized Ministries
    • Alive Now! (religious writing, editing, publishing)
    • Belmont University Religion Dept. (TA for introductory Bible classes)
    • Pathways Center of the Upper Room (spiritual formation)
    • Penuel Ridge Retreat Center
    • Scarritt-Bennett Center (conference and retreat center)
    • United Methodist Board of Discipleship (selected divisions)
    • W. O. Smith School of Music (inner-city children and youth)